With a health halo, botanicals are driving beverage innovation, contributing to a wide range of functional benefits from cognitive and immune support to sleep and energy. Shizu Okusa’s understanding of cross modal, research-backed herbalism has shaped the brand’s tincture and powder formats, while addressing the personalization that consumers are looking for in their beverages.
“We touch upon Ayurveda, Japanese Kampo, Traditional Chinese Medicine and American herbalism. We do not really discriminate, but we do not choose one or the other because we think it is really important that people get the science and education around ingredients more so than choosing a certain modality,” she explained.
Given the rise of sober-curious consumers, botanicals offer the flavor and functionality that are popular in alcohol alternatives.
The latest launch, Rosé-Tinted Glasses, is a floral, strawberry flavored tincture made from schisandra berry, an adaptogen commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine with claimed mood and skin-enhancing benefits; as well as red hibiscus, rosehip and Siberian ginseng and Lion’s Mane mushroom for calm and mental clarity, according to the tincture’s ingredient list.
Apothékary’s other wine alternatives include the Stop Your Wine-ing powder made from aronia, acai berries and motherwort for an evening calm; and the tincture Take the Edge Off made from passionflower, linden, skullcap and oatstraw for stress support.
Since COVID, Okusa added, consumers are focused on preventative health through more natural channels, underscoring Apothékary’s expansive portfolio of tinctures and powders that address stress, energy, focus and cognition, sleep, skin, digestion, hormone balance and wine alternatives; as well as its staff that reflects its naturopathic positioning. Apothékary now has a full time R&D, clinical herbalist in house and works with herbalist, Rachelle Robinet, RH as an advisor.
“It was really important that we were giving homage traditional herbal medicine routines and rituals, and a lot of these historical recipes that have also been used for centuries, but also driven through science,” Okusa explained.
“We [want] to cover both the breadth and depth of products and meet what customers want,” Okusa said, adding that the brand is working on launching three or four more formats in the next two years.
“We will have different options for different folks…who [prefer] different ways to consume their herbs,” Okusa explained. Yet, she maintains that the common link between these formats will be potency.
‘We can’t keep up with demand’
Sourcing Apothékary’s certified organic, vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO ingredients is one of the brand’s primary challenges, along with keeping up with high demand for some of its products, Okusa attested.
“We can’t keep up with demand. And those are the challenges that we have to think about—ingredient availability, sourcing availability and making sure that we can find it organic.
“From an ingredient perspective, it took about 18 months before we launched the business in 2020 to find and source the suppliers. We are still navigating through some supply chain problems…our Take the Edge Off is our number one product and is sold out right now [and has been] for the last 30 days,” she continued.
Personalized communications and services
Apothékary’s personalized products extend further with its customer service. The website offers a quiz for users to determine what type of product they need, as well as the opportunity to have a free 15-minute product consultation via phone. Okusa added that the brand takes between 30-60 phone calls a day, underscoring the company’s mission to customize most of their consumers’ experience. After a three-month use, the brand follows up with users to check on satisfaction and whether they would like to reassess their routine and try a new product, highlighting the brand’s strategy to strengthen customer loyalty.
“It’s really [developing] the [consumer’s] experience and the ability to personalize that through the phone with someone in a way that feels like they are understood,” she explained.
Apothékary relies on consumer reviews for its brand growth. Okusa explained that between consumer reviews and quarterly surveys, the brand is able to fine tune quality, potency and product size:
“So when the when a product is released, like Take the Edge Off or Rosé Tinted Glasses, we'll reach out after a quarter to all of those customers to get their feedback or we'll give them a $5 gift card to submit their feedback as a thank you…[which] allows us to get intimate with that sort of experience and get a summary…to dictate okay, what time are they using? Do they like it? Are they using it? Do they want it again?”
[Editor's note: Interested in learning more about where the functional beverage trend is going? Join FoodNavigator-USA for our free webinar Sept. 20. Learn more and register for the webinar 'Functional Beverages from AM to PM: From energy and focus to clarity and calm.']